MINI is expanding vehicle production abroad with the new Austrian-built Countryman.
The model is assembled by Magna Steyr in Graz, using a production line to be shared with a new small BMW crossover model. They will use capacity vacated by the BMW X3’s move to Spartanburg, US.
Controversial stuff? What about MINI UK? Is this MINI losing its British soul? Not a bit, argues MINI designer Gert Hildebrand. Rather, it is ‘a new family member.’
MINI will always remain a volume British-built car, he explained. ‘Its Britishness is at the very heart of it.’ And this future is going to be centered on Oxford – which now appears to have gained an official ‘profile’ within MINI.
‘The Oxford Family will always keep the core values of the car. The Countryman is a bigger brother, with which we can go further. We can develop things with it than we can’t with the Oxford Family.’ Hence, 5 doors, 4-wheel drive, VW Golf-like dimensions. All the things the Mini never offered.
Back to the UK though, Hildebrand constantly refers to the Porsche 911 when discussing the Oxford Family MINI. Which means the Countryman, and no doubt other variants too, will be MINI’s equivalent of the Porsche Cayenne and Porsche Panamera. (Lest we forget, the Cayenne is actually built by VW, in Slovakia…)
The differentiation extends to a completely different colour palette for the MINI Countryman: ‘Not a single colour is shared with Plant Oxford. This car must be optically different from the hatchback, to recognise its bigger brother status.’ Nothing like using colour for instant differentiation…
And for those who say the very idea of a non-mini MINI is anathema, Hildebrand references his favourite Issigonis car – the 1100. ‘That was related to the classic Mini, but was recognisably nothing other than an 1100.’ The 1100 was, of course, also designed – by Pininfarina – rather than defined by Issigonis.
‘With the Countryman, we have an historical joint to it.’ Rather this than some sort of spurious historical link to wood-laden Travellers…
+ Are you happy with the Oxford Family definition of MINI?
+ What are your first impressions of the Countryman?
+ Do you agree with Hildebrand’s interpretation of the 1100 link?